Made In The U.S.A.

Andres Cardenes

Ocean Records, 1998

http://www.andrescardenes.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/15/1998

To the disinterested listener -- or maybe even just the uninformed -- classical music is dead. They believe that while it may still be played, it is no longer written. In fact, classical music is still being created, though its authors might not be as recognized as such composers as Mozart, Beethoven and Bach.

Cuban-born Andres Cardenes wanted to pay tribute to more modern classical music composers, especially those who were from the United States, his adopted country. The end result is Made In The U.S.A., a collaboration between the violinist and pianist Luz Manriquez. The pairing is a natural one, and there are some excellent performances here - though a few do fall flat.

Cardenes's selections run the gambit, from the better-known artists (Aaron Copland, Andre Previn) to the more obscure (Cecil Burleigh, William Bolcom) to the current (David Stock). The pieces themselves are shorter than one might expect -- the average selection only runs about three minutes, allowing the listener to get a taste of each composer (and, in some cases, wanting more).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The interplay between Cardenes and Manriquez is a natural one -- this is not their first album together -- with the piano and violin blending in quite well. In one sense, this is just as much Manriquez's album as it is Cardenes's -- one wonders if the same magic would have been there had there been a different pianist. I don't think it would have been the same.

The discovery of such artists like Burleigh are welcome ones, sounding a little more like "regular" classical music than its modern counterpart. Burleigh's pieces are especially complementary to the violin-piano arrangements; pieces like "Ghost Dance" especially highlight the interplay between the two instruments. "Summer Idyl" is an incredible piece, allowing Cardenes's violin to ring out.

The one piece by Bolcom, "Graceful Ghost," has inklings of slower ragtime embedded in it, which brings Manriquez to the front. (I found it funny that I heard this, seeing that the piece was written in 1979 -- not that I'm complaining.) Other artists who I wish had been touched on a little more include Samuel Barber ("Canzone" is a beautiful, well-chosen piece) and Frederic Knight Logan (I liked the subdued nature of "Pale Moon").

Surprisingly, it is the more established composers whose work doesn't always adjust to the arrangements. "Hoedown" from "Rodeo" is probably Copland's best-known piece, but the Cardenes-Manriquez version has more of a Southern feel to it. It may be hypocritical to say so, but this feel just doesn't suit the piece as well; I prefer the full orchestration's richer sound. And while "Naava", one of Previn's "Two Little Serenades", is a powerful piece, its predecessor, "Noah," suffers in that it does not resolve itself well.

In one sense, this is a hard disc to review, mainly because Cardenes selects pieces from several different composers. When a particular selection succeeds or fails, it is difficult to determine if the weakness was in the performance or the composition itself. (More often than not, I thought the weakness was on the shoulders of the composers.)

Made In The U.S.A. is a different disc, and is one that takes some time to get used to, but Cardenes and Manriquez are able to win over the listener in due time. Afficionados of the violin and piano will find much to love about the disc, while fans of classical music will appreciate the chance to discover composers in a genre that, according to the naysayers, shouldn't even be alive.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Ocean Records, and is used for informational purposes only.